Carter looked up startled as her door opened and Rodney, Alista, and his entire team entered. "I believe the request was for Rodney." She said curtly.

"Yes, it was." Sheppard said as he sprawled in a chair. "We're a set." His posture implied an indifference that his eyes gave lie to. The fierce look he gave Carter said he would fight hard to keep McKay.

Carter looked around at the determined, concerned faces and sighed. She looked at Rodney's worried face and hated what she was having to do. "After yesterday's incident, Rodney I really think it would be best if you took some time off to deal with…everything that happened."

"Time off? On Earth, right?" Rodney asked bitterly.

"Yes, away from stressful reminders." Carter said gently.

"And I come back when? When some mental voo-doo doctor that doesn't have clearance to be told the truth decides I'm fit to work again? Do I pack a duffel or all my things, Sam?"

"You aren't being fired, Rodney." Carter snapped. "You need to deal with this. Take vacation; visit family."

"We are his family." Ronon growled earning a lifted eyebrow from Carter.

"You are sending him away from those who know him best and care the most." Teyla retorted.

"He needs…"

"Us." Sheppard said, straightening up in the chair all pretense evaporating. "You think some psychologist on Earth is going to understand the horrors of the Pegasus Galaxy better than we do? You think there's someone more familiar with Kolya's tactics than me?"

Rodney sat bemused and strangely silent while his friends fought to keep him where he belonged.

"If you send him to Earth, I'm going with him." Alista stated.

Carter looked at her. "You have a job to do here."

Alista laughed coldly. "I'm here because of Rodney. I save these people because he asked me to and for no other reason. Don't ever think differently, Colonel."

"I believe we all have vacation time." Sheppard said nonchalantly, cutting off what looked to be a huge argument.

"I think I don't work for anyone." Ronon said bluntly.

"I have wanted to visit Earth for awhile." Teyla added.

"What?" Rodney stirred and looked around in surprise. "You'd all do that? For me?"

Sheppard reached over and smacked him lightly. "Family, Rodney. Get that fact through your head."

"Ow," Rodney rubbed his arm. "Beating me won't help."

Sheppard froze. Guilt shone in his eyes.

Rodney blanched as he realized what he'd said.

Everyone was silent a moment then Ronon said dryly, "Don't expect me to hug you," and Rodney flushed while his friends grin slightly.

Sam's grin faded and she stared sternly at them. "I won't be threatened into changing my mind." She said in a firm voice. "He needs to talk about this to someone and until Kate Heightmeyer is replaced there isn't anyone qualified on Atlantis."

John leaned forward. "Qualified? Think about it, Colonel. How do people react when they first meet McKay? Do you really think a stranger is going to be able to help him? Do you think that he will even open up and talk to a stranger? It took a year for him to start talking to Kate about his normal pyschosis." He glanced at Rodney. "Sorry."

Rodney waved a hand. "You're right – not an open person."

"We've been through the hard times together. He's blown up part of a solar system; I shot him. We're his friends; his...his family. We helped Ronon after Sateda; Teyla after finding about the Wraith DNA; they helped me after the bug incident; and we'll help Rodney over this. We're the ones he'll trust enough, has trusted enough to tell the details to. You send him to Earth and he's only going to withdraw more."

"He's talking to you?" Carter asked Sheppard, disbelievingly.

"I am here, you know." Rodney snapped, irritation stinging him out of his despondency. "You can quit talking about me as if I'm not."

Carter flushed slightly. "Sorry, McKay."

"I know yesterday looks bad." He glanced down and then up at her. "It was bad, but we talked last night…..about everything and I know I'm not completely over it yet, but I am better."

"Everything?" Carter raised an eyebrow and looked from McKay to Sheppard.

"Yes," they both said, fidgeting nervously.

Rodney flushed and Sheppard looked uneasy. A glance showed Ronon and Teyla shifting uneasily. So, he had told his team everything. Maybe they were right. Maybe he would be better off staying here now that they knew what he was recovering from because Sheppard had a point – McKay wasn't going to open up to a stranger no matter what.

Carter leaned back thoughtfully. "No more trashed labs?"

"Hopefully not." Rodney replied honestly.

Carter nodded. She wouldn't have believed a straight 'no'. "Okay, you stay here, but you all are to help him through this whether he wants you to or not."

"Agreed." Sheppard leaped to his feet with a grin.

"I can stay?" Rodney asked unable to believe she'd agreed.

"You can stay."

Rodney stood shakily and was immediately surrounded by his friends being hugged and clapped on the back. They ushered him, unresisting, out of Carter's office and out of the control room.

"So, what now?" Ronon asked.

"I, ah, think I should go to the lab; clean up." Rodney said hesitantly, hugging Alista tightly to him.

"You sure?" Sheppard asked quietly.

"Yes. They shouldn't have to clean up after my breakdown." Rodney said stubbornly.


Rodney stopped stunned in the doorway of the lab. Radek and several other techs were already in the lab sorting through the debris.

Everyone stopped and stared at him with a mixture of sympathy and caution.

"We were not sure if you would be in today." Radek said slowly.

"I…I didn't think you all should have to deal with….this." Rodney waved a hand around the lab. "I'm, ah, really, really sorry about…"

"It's okay, Dr. McKay." A young brunette said quickly. "We understand."

The story of the condition Dr. McKay had come back in had spread quickly through his department. Many had went and sat with him during those first few days although he wasn't aware of it. The ugly details of his injuries especially the one Alista had nearly died healing before they had gotten them back to Atlantis had made his people furious.

Rodney flushed slightly and gave her a quick smile. "Thanks, Becky."

"I need new computer." Radek glared at him, holding the remains in his hands.

"Fill out the forms." He moved on into the room and Alista and his team followed him in.

"I…I…" Radek spluttered. "You destroy it; you fill out forms!"

"Um, yes, you're right. I should fill them out for you." Rodney said so earnestly that Radek stared at him suspiciously.

"No, on second thought I do not want hot pink computer."

Rodney smirked at him and began cleaning. At first everyone was quiet and awkward, but Rodney concentrated on cleaning up and after awhile he felt the tension fade and a sense of belonging settled on him. Going back to Earth would have killed him except for Jeannie and her family everyone and everything he loved was here on Atlantis.

The technicians in this room were the ones that had weathered years of his temperamental nature. They had been raked over the coals for their mistakes and praised for their achievements. They had seen him be petty and selfish over small things and work like a man possessed for days on end existing on no sleep and lots of stimulants to save their lives. Most of the time he didn't remember their names just snapped his fingers at them and snarled. He was definitely a flawed human being, but he was theirs. They would do a lot more than clean up some debris for him.

It was after lunch time before the lab was back to rights. Most of what had been tossed around had survived, but several pieces of Ancient tech that they had been studying was broken along with several coffee mugs. The biggest loss was two computers. Luckily, they saved data on the server in the lab so the only information lost was the current experiments that hadn't been saved when he had wigged out.


Alista slid into bed naked and cuddled up against him. She slid her hand under his shirt and stroked across his stomach and up over his chest her fingers sketching random designs through the crisp chest hair.

Rodney sighed and lightly stroked her back. "I can't imagine having to leave. This has been the only place to feel like home since our apartment." He confessed quietly. In the weeks following his breakdown he had had some rough days, but the good days were being to outnumber the bad.

"I know what you mean." Alista said. "The lodge was the first place to feel like that for me."

They lay there quietly for awhile lost in their own thoughts then Alista knelt and tugged his shirt up and over his head.

"What?" Rodney reached for it, but she phased it and tossed it to the floor.

"It's been two months. I want to feel you next to me." She slid down, pressing against him.

Rodney hesitated a moment before turning toward her and pulling her even closer against him. She moaned and wiggled, loving the feel of his skin sliding against hers. Pulling his head down, she kissed him softly.

His hands roamed her body eliciting moans and soft gasps of pleasure. To his surprise, his manhood twitched and swelled in response to the sexy little noises she was making. She rubbed hard against him and it swelled into a full erection.

With a throaty growl, she pushed him onto his back and began scattering tiny kisses down his torso until she reached the waistband of his boxers.

"Lista," he protested. What if it hadn't healed right? What if he couldn't perform?

"Let me," she begged. "Let me touch you, taste you." She nuzzled him through the fabric and he moaned and arched toward her. "Please…" She mouthed him.

"Yes, okay, oh, ah…" He rambled as long denied sensations surged in him.

Deftly, she peeled the boxers down exposing him. She dragged her tongue up the length of him with a soft sigh. The head bobbed as she swirled around it and she took it in her mouth quickly licking and sucking before releasing it.

"Okay?" She asked huskily, looking up at him and taking in the blissful look.

He made a throaty noise and bumped her cheek with his cock. Laughing, she took him back in going all the way down. She licked and sucked, nipped and kissed and stroked him until he came with a hoarse shout. Okay, definitely healed right and ready to perform!

Alista crawled up his body and kissed him. Rodney wrapped arms around her and rolled over with her pinning her beneath him. He brushed her hair back gently and kissed her. "Now that's therapy." He murmured running his hands over her. His mouth followed his hands on a slow journey down her body reacquainting himself with the taste and texture of her skin.

He teased and pleased her until his manhood became erect again and then he plunged into her. They rocked together frantic to rediscover each other until the pleasure crested and they cried out together.

Alista lay quietly watching him sleep next to her. His face smooth and peaceful for the first time since they had rescued him. She traced his jaw with a feather light touch of her fingers and smiled when he turned toward her pulling her against him, tucking her under his chin murmuring, "Go to sleep."

She sighed contentedly and snuggled against him. Second chances. She was so glad that she had risked taking one. Now she finally felt loved and accepted for all her strengths and weaknesses and abilities. In his arms, she wasn't a freaky mutant; she was just the woman he loved. The woman who loved him.